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San Diego Businesses, Residents Oppose Adding Temporary Homeless Shelter Downtown

Homeless people stand in front of their make-shift shelters on 17th Street in...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Homeless people stand in front of their make-shift shelters on 17th Street in San Diego's East Village, June 28, 2016.

A coalition of downtown businesses and residents are speaking out against plans to convert the old downtown library into a temporary homeless shelter.

Members of the Downtown San Diego Partnership along with some East Village residents said at a news conference Tuesday that the city should instead focus on long-term solutions to address homelessness such as permanent housing.

"We've seen temporary shelters go up all over downtown, and they're not really the answer," said Kris Michell, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership. "They may be part of a solution temporarily, but it's not the answer."

The group called the news conference out of fears that the City Council would use grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to repurpose the library into a homeless shelter. City staffers said at the council meeting Tuesday afternoon that they had no intent to do so.

The old library has sat vacant since the city opened the new downtown library in 2013. Civic San Diego, the non-profit corporation that oversees development downtown, issued a request for proposals last year to redevelop the property. The mayor halted the RFP process earlier this year.

City Councilman Chris Ward, whose district includes downtown, suggested at Tuesday's council meeting that he could be open to a re-purposing of the library for temporary use, but that he did not want to see it turned into a homeless shelter in the long term.

"It is my immediate priority to see an RFP is issued for that site, and that we get a really smart development proposal in the works," he said.

Countywide data released last week showed a rise in street homelessness, particularly in downtown San Diego. Advocates, homeless service providers and public officials are debating whether temporary shelters are a necessary short-term solution to get people off the streets, or whether they are a wasteful use of the region's limited funding and that all resources should be going toward permanent housing tied in with social services.

San Diego Businesses, Residents Oppose Adding Temporary Homeless Shelter Downtown

GUEST:

Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS

A coalition of downtown businesses and residents are speaking out against plans to convert the old downtown library into a temporary homeless shelter.

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